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Lands of Desire and Loss

British Colonial and Postcolonial Spaces


Nicoletta Brazzelli

Lands of Desire and Loss develops an interdisciplinary approach connecting the literary and geographical imagination which shape British perception and representation of colonial and postcolonial spaces. Through her readings of literary works belonging to the dawn of colonial enterprises (Walter Raleigh’s The Discoverie of Guiana and Shakespeare’s The Tempest), the heyday of the British Empire (H. Rider Haggard’s She and W.H. Hudson’s Green Mansions) and the postcolonial consciousness refashioning old myths and cultural tropes (V.S. Naipaul’s A Way in the World), the author highlights the crucial role of ideology in narrative plots and literary metaphors concerning space. The imaginative focus of the book is El Dorado, a geographical and literary construction created and recreated at different times, shaped and reshaped in British colonial and postcolonial writing.


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PART TWO. Narrative frames


PART TWO Narrative frames CHAPTER THREE The fascination with the New World Renaissance tropes of discovery El Dorado and the discourse of wonder The multiplicity of spatial and ideological formulations of the British Empire was as much a question of imagination and myth as a question of calculation and economic realities. 1580 was a ground-breaking year for imperial Britain, because it saw the creation of new geogra- phies based on imperial designs, especially when Francis Drake’s tri- umphant return from circumnavigating the globe ignited the attempts at colonizing the New World.1 It marked England’s desire to reconfi- gure the world and organize space in new ways. Francis Drake (1540-1596), the greatest of Elizabethan pirates, had become an instant hero for the English when he returned from his circumnavigation. Drake’s success against the Spanish marked a deci- sive moment in the construction of the English Empire.2 His incredible 1 See Bruce McLeod, The Geography of Empire in English Literature 1580-1745 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), particularly the introduction. In 1570, 1571 and 1572 Francis Drake made three successive voyages to the West Indies. In 1577 he undertook the passage to the South Seas by the Strait of Magellan and was back in England, laden with spices as well as with Spanish treasures, in September 1580. 2 See John Sugden, Sir Francis Drake (London: Barrie & Jenkins, 1990) and Bruce Wathen, Sir Francis Drake. The Construction of a Hero (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2009). Drake was not the only historical figure to be revived...

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